Recent actions by our legislators, and even by my fellow educators, leave me discouraged. Since it was first legislated that the current group of high school seniors would be held accountable to pass certain exams to earn a high school diploma, many have believed the state would eventually falter on its promise to uphold this standard.
The teachers, and those I consider professional colleagues, have worked diligently to help students meet these standards. To hear that some legislators, and even some educators, suggest that we should back off this standard is dis-couraging and disappointing.
Students must pass the English II test, the Algebra I test, and two of the remaining five end-of-instruction (EOI) exams. They must pass a total of four EOIs or their equivalent. During the 2011 spring testing, the following approximate scores were required to “pass” these tests: Algebra I (49 percent), English II (62), geometry (51), Algebra II (47), biology (55), U.S. history (55) and English III (50).
How high are those standards? If a student can't meet these passing scores, does he or she truly deserve to be rewarded with a high school diploma? The intent of the original law was to establish a standard and work toward a high school diploma being earned. Abandoning this now sets us up for the exact same abandonment of our standards three years from now when Common Core begins being assessed.
If a student can't achieve a passing score on the appropriate EOIs, he or she may also meet the standard through alternative testing. This includes the PLAN test and the ACT, along with the Work Keys Exam, a “project” and even a Modified Proficiency Growth Score. Just recently, through the diligent work of our counselor and our teachers, one of our students who had failed every proficiency exam he attempted in another state scored high enough on the Work Keys Exam to earn credit for all three of his math EOIs. They're working to help him meet the alternative standard for English II.
If a student is in special education, he or she can be deemed to have met the standard simply by improving one point from one EOI exam to the next. That's right: One point! And if all of this falls through, the student can attempt to demonstrate proficiency through a project.
In our staff's first meeting this semester, a teacher asked me if I really thought Common Core would make any difference. He was referencing the idea that after all of the money, time and effort to implement and achieve the EOI concept, it's in danger of being abandoned when it matters most.
I also find it ironic that as we head into the first year of evaluating teachers based on “test scores,” we're discussing holding the teachers accountable for student performance while abandoning the concept of holding students accountable for their own performance.
Brunk is principal at Newcastle High School.